Uniting for community-led development

An update from the Global Advocacy Team Initiative

We are all from different continents, with different cultures, contexts and languages, however we have a common struggle around social injustice, therefore coming together is important for us. Unity and diversity is needed, as we are all experiencing the same impact of injustice and development.”

Jessica Amon — Community Organizers Multiversity, Philippines

The Global Advocacy Team Initiative is a 3-year global campaign to demonstrate that communities should be at the center of development — leading the design and implementation of projects and plans that affect their lives and environment.

As part of co-creating the Global Advocacy Team Initiative, we recently united an incredible group of community organizers and activists. Starting in March 2021, IAP reached out to interested groups and individuals who were passionate, committed and actively involved in community-led development planning or who have experience supporting communities to realize their own visions of development.

Although we did not know each other at first, we eagerly joined forces in building collective knowledge, learning and actions to demonstrate that community-led development is the model that truly fulfills the human right to development. This common goal united us.

In total, IAP and partners co-convened 2 global and 5 regional Expert Meetings and built bonds among 53 community organizers and activists from 25 countries, representing 46 organizations and community collectives.

Participants of the Global Advocacy Team Expert Meetings

“The exchange of learning and experience among communities can create a common understanding of what development is and what it means for communities to share a common dream.” — Participant

In the 5 regional Expert Meetings, participants joined a virtual bonfire circle to share stories and inspiring moments. As new friends we exchanged a wide range of tools and tactical experiences — including on community-led research, land rights, the right to information, community protocols by Indigenous Peoples, community mapping, community mobilization, community consultations in education, using culturally-informed approaches, accessing local grievance mechanisms, accessing seed funding for community plans and how to link local campaigns to global advocacy.

Around the virtual bonfires and through other interactive exercises, participants reinforced the need to address power dynamics with and within communities. Many different approaches and formats to shape community-led development plans were shared, for example, using art, maps, creative visuals, cross-community exchanges, translation and various research tools.

“We must devote enough time to take into account inequalities and to explore what special measures we have to implement to ensure inclusive and representation.”

Suhayla Bazbaz Kuri, Cohesión Comunitaria e Innovación Social A.C., Mexico

After these deep conversations in regional languages, the participants reconvened for the second global meeting to consolidate cross-regional learning and to discuss how wider groups can engage with the Global Advocacy Team going forward.

Together, we agreed that community-led development is successful when there is:

  • Collective unity and mobilization of the community
  • Participation of different groups within the community especially where there is women and youth leadership
  • Understanding and implementation of their rights (including Free Prior and Informed Consent)
  • Understanding of structural violence that shapes histories and societies, like colonization
  • A community that uses its own resources to collect evidence (community developing their own media)
  • When a community’s resilience speaks truth to power and uses different strategies and negotiations to sustain their visions of development
  • Knowledge and planning of the community is at the center of development planning (land use plans, planning for housing, drafting their own policies)
  • When communities have access to information that allows them to organize and participate
  • When communities have support of networks and civil society

Through a nomination process, 6 seasoned community organizers from Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, Southeast Asia and South Asia formed an Advisory Group to advise and support the Global Advocacy Team Initiative and to keep us all grounded and accountable. We truly appreciate their commitment!

By uniting so many people who were once strangers, we witnessed the meaning and beauty of providing a space for global and regional gatherings among diverse people who have incredible movements behind them. They each held different experiences, issues, approaches and expertise on the spectrum of trying and succeeding. We realized together the necessity of uniting us and the communities we work with — internally and with each other from across perspectives of class, caste, race and gender towards real development.

Every single individual and group brought with them rich experiences of themselves and movements they are a part of. This inspired and fueled everyone in the group to continue to co-power the Global Advocacy Team…. this is unity in diversity.

“It is inspirational to see when the process of community-led development breaks the culture of silence of people in the community who believe it must be their destiny to be poor and marginalized. This is when they begin to understand and claim their rights to establish their own space within development.” — Participant

The Global Advocacy Team Initiative will involve 8 community organizers from 8 countries to focus on community-led development planning. The outcomes will include: strengthened community-led development plans for each Global Advocacy Team member; local and international advocacy to encourage community-led development as a preferred model; a collectively produced report and global recommendations; and accessible training materials on community-led development planning. The 3-year initiative is being co-created by IAP and partners and supervised by a 6-person global Advisory Committee.

Here for the first time? Catch up on previous Global Advocacy Team news:

To learn more, watch a video introduction, review the Concept Note or contact us iap (@) accountabilityproject.org

Video: An Introduction to the Global Advocacy Team

IAP is a human and environmental rights organization that works with communities, civil society and social movements to change how today’s development is done.